Chasing the school record


Cory Ives

Hanging above the bleachers of the basketball court, behind a well-kept glass case, lies the ink that immortalizes hard work. Written in bold letters, “West Ottawa High School Boys Cross Country Best 30 Individual 5k Performances” is sprawled across the top of a glossy sheet of paper with 30 names listed, recognizing the greatest West Ottawa runners of all time. People pass this list often, looking up to admire these names, imagining their own name up there with a swell of hypothetical pride. The prestige of making it on this list has pushed athletes to dedicate hours of each day to physical improvement. But, for Sr. Aaron Weimer, just having his name on this list isn’t enough, he wants “to be the best West Ottawa has ever had.”

 The current WO 5k cross country record, which has gone uncontested for the last eight years, is  15:59 set by Stephen Rich. This time is good enough to compete at the division one collegiate level. Needless to say, this record is an elite time. Only the most dedicated and hardworking individuals in the state even approach this time.

 Despite that, Weimer remains confident in his ability to break the record. “It’s been a goal since freshman year…I’ve trained really hard in the past four years. I think I could get it with enough effort,” Weimer said.

 Indeed, Weimer has trained hard as the results would indicate. He’s surpassed expectations in his pursuit of the record, training outside of normal high school activities so he can gain an edge. “I’ve gone to the gym to see a personal trainer who can help me with my running. Also, I ran with college runners who gave me tips on how to run better and faster.”

 For an average cross country runner, training consists of going to every practice and working hard. But Weimer doesn’t stop there. He goes to every practice, works hard, does push-ups, sit ups, crunches, weightlifting, and then occasionally meets up with professionals for tips. It’s this work ethic that has made Weimer a tremendous runner and given him the opportunity to break the record.

 Cross country coach Chris Knoll lays it out as plainly as possible. “He’s really fast because he works really hard.”

 It really is as simple as it sounds. Cross country is a sport where input equals output; the hard work and effort one puts into it decides what one will get out of it. But only the elite runners, Weimer included, are the ones that can push this to the limits. Weimer puts the greatest amount of effort he can possibly fit into the sport and ends up with bewildering times and achievements as a result.

 Nonetheless, this record isn’t going to be easy for Weimer to beat. There’s a reason the record has gone uncontested for so long. According to Knoll, it’d be an impressive feat for Weimer to carry out. “It’ll be very impressive because (Stephen Rich) was really intense in competition, like really, really intense,” Knoll said. “You can work hard, but to be really fast, you have to have the intensity.”

 So, it’s still going to be  a challenge for Weimer. Hundreds of people before him have shared his goal of breaking the record and toiled endlessly in pursuit of it. He will have to outperform every single one of these runners through sheer will and determination.

 Ted Booker, a WO runner in the 2003 cross country team, ran a 16:26 in his final race, missing the current school record by 27 seconds. Booker had done an incredible amount of training to get to that point, yet still missed the record substantially. So, Booker fully understands how significant the record time is. “To beat the current record of 15:59, Aaron Weimer will need to have a gutsy race and run with courage. And he’ll need to run through pain. When you’re running that fast, it’s difficult to shave even seconds off your time,” Booker said. “If he does it, it would be a testament to the hard work he has put in. And he would make his team and school proud.”

  Weimer has the school behind him on his historic pursuit of the record. He has been determined since freshman year, and has not shown any signs of letting up yet. If he were to break the record, it would mean a great deal to him. “I would be jumping from happiness, crying from joy. All the weight would finally fly off. It would be uplifting.” With his energy, work ethic, and drive, Weimer is in hot pursuit of the WO cross country record.